Wood, Roy

Roy Wood was born in Kitts Green, Birmingham, England on 8 November 1946. His first group in Birmingham in the early 1960s was The Falcons, which he left in 1963 to join Gerry Levene and the Avengers. He then moved to Mike Sheridan and the Nightriders. During this period, Wood attended the Moseley College of Art, from which he was expelled in 1964.

With his next band, The Move, he reached the UK singles chart for the first time. Their single ‘Night of fear’ peaked at number 2 in early 1967. Their third hit, ‘Flowers in the rain’, was the first song played at the launch of BBC Radio 1 in 1967, and the band evolved over a three year period. After lead singer Carl Wayne, Wood’s influence became more prominent. Wood was keen on musical experimentation and was an early proponent of combining rock and roll and pop music with other styles, such as classical music, or the big band sound, and introduced classically-styled string and brass sections into the pop record.

When The Move was still on tour, he founded, together with his band colleagues Jeff Lynne and Bev Bevan, the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), which was later to gain major commercial success. The original intention was to continue with both The Move and ELO, but the former soon ceased to exist. ELO’s early live performances were chaotic, and after increasing tensions, Wood left in July 1972 and formed a new group, Wizzard, which assembled cellists, brass players and a bigger rhythm section, with several drummers and percussionists. Wood emulated the wall of sound production style of Phil Spector while successfully and affectionately pastiching the rock and roll style of the early 1960s. Meanwhile, he released several solo albums, exploring further musical directions. In 1973, Wizzard had two number one hits in the UK: ‘See my baby jive’ and ‘Angel fingers’. The band ended the year with I wish it could be Christmas every day, which peaked at number 4 but became a classic Christmas song in the UK.

By the late 1970s, Wood was appearing less in public; commercial success faded away, and his musical experiments did not always match popular taste, but he remained productive in the studio as musician, producer and songwriter. Between 1980 and 1982 Wood released a few singles under his own name and also as Roy Wood’s Helicopters, and played some live dates under this name. Wood also made a one-off rock and roll medley single with Phil Lynott, Chas Hodges and John Coghlan, credited to The Rockers, ‘We Are the Boys’ (1983), and played a leading role in the Birmingham Heart Beat Charity Concert 1986, on 15 March 1986, which was later televised in part by the BBC. As well as designing the logo, Wood performed in a line-up which also included the Electric Light Orchestra and the Moody Blues.

After a period away from the limelight, following the release of the album ‘Starting up’ (1987), a cover version of the Len Barry hit ‘1 2 3’, and a guest vocal appearance on one track on Rick Wakeman’s The Time Machine, he went on the road with a band billed as Roy Wood’s Army.

Kim Wilde, who used to be a fan of Roy Wood during her teens, appeared live on stage with him and his band during a party of the Society of Distinguished Songwriters in December 1994, singing Rescue Me and I wish it could be Christmas everyday.

In later years Roy Wood capitalized on his best known song ‘I wish it could be Christmas everyday’ by releasing a new live version as the ‘Roy Wood Big Band’, which charted at number 59, and in 2000 he joined forces with Mike Batt and The Wombles, for a re-working of ‘I wish it could be Christmas everyday’ with the Wombles’ hit ‘Wombling Merry Christmas’ together in one song which reached number 22. Over Christmas 2007, Wood appeared in a catalogue advertisement for Argos, where he played the part of a rowdy neighbour playing guitar along to Wizzard’s ‘I wish it could be Christmas everyday’, and the song once again entered the UK singles chart, peaking at number 16. It has re-entered the charts every subsequent year on download sales alone, although no longer physically available as a single.

In December 2011, Roy Wood and Kim Wilde appeared as support acts for Status Quo for a UK tour entitled the Quofestive Tour. At the end of each night the three reunited on stage to sing a medley of Winter Wonderland and Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.

In 2013, Kim Wilde performed I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday live during her short UK tour in support of Wilde Winter Songbook.